Gymkhana Club row: Government seeks civil and criminal immunity for its directors

The six directors were appointed in April to oversee the club following allegations of financial mismanagement and violation of membership norms.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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The Narendra Modi government has approached the National Company Law Tribunal seeking civil and criminal immunity for all six members of the committee it appointed in April to run the Delhi Gymkhana Club. The committee was tasked with setting the exclusive club in order following allegations of financial irregularities as well as violation of membership rules.

In a petition dated July 20 to the tribunal, the government prayed that the six directors should not be subjected to any civil or criminal action while they are discharging their duty. The tribunal “may be pleased to declare that the newly appointed directors should not, in discharge of their collective or individual responsibilities, be made subject to any civil and/or criminal and/or punitive action, direct or vicarious or of any nature whatsoever, by the state or Central government agencies”, the petition by the union corporate affairs ministry states.

It calls for immunity for the six directors for the “past wrongs” allegedly committed by previous committees, and asks the tribunal to ensure the newly appointed directors “will not be subject to any disability or disqualification under any law”.

To buttress its case, the petition, filed by Raunak Dhillon on behalf of the corporate affairs ministry, cited earlier orders of the tribunal on the embattled Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. It argued that the tribunal had shielded new board members of IL&FS against criminal and civil action.

In the wake of allegations of financial irregularities at the club, the corporate affairs ministry first appointed MM Juneja, an officer on special duty at the ministry, as an administrator of the club in early 2021. He was soon replaced by VK Yadav from the Railways, who in turn gave way to Om Pathak in May 2021. Pathak, who invited accusations of mismanaging the club by the members, was replaced on April 3, 2022 by the six directors.

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The directors are mandated to take “corrective steps” against financial irregularities and oversee the running of the club. They are BJP leaders Nalin Kohli and Kuljeet Singh Chahal; former bureaucrats Ashish Verma and Ajay Kumar Sawhney; and former police officers Kumar Rajesh Chandra and Malay Kumar Sinha.

Reacting to the government’s petition to the tribunal, one member described it as “treacherous”. “They are seeking protection as they have not been able to do anything since their appointment. The tribunal had asked them to take ‘corrective steps’ but I wonder what they have done except their witch-hunt against widows and other members. They have not taken any action based on the PV Bhide committee report and Lt General Shankar Prashad committee report. They should read these reports which looked into aberrations at the club, rather than harassing members,” said a former Army officer who is a member of the club.

When Newslaundry conveyed this sentiment to Kohli, he replied, “Those who brought the club to such a pitiable state with acts of omission and commission have no locus standi in criticising the committee which seeks to take ‘corrective measures’.”

Newslaundry tried contacting Ashish Verma, the club’s secretary, and Malay Kumar Sinha, the chairman, for comment, but to no avail.

Dhillon said the petition was “partly heard” on July 28, and that the “matter will be heard again on September 15”.


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